How to Get Your Husband Involved in Housework

First, let me say this: it is not ALL men who can’t do housework properly. There are a select few men, who do housework beautifully, who cook more than just barbeque, and who make ideal house husbands because they are just so good with all things domestic.

Man relaxing on couch while woman vacuums carpet

This, however, is NOT the norm. In most cases, your average guy doesn’t have a clue. My husband walks in right past the overflowing trash can, then leans on it when he tells me about his day and knocks it over.

My son isn’t a lot better. I can tell any of my three males to clean up around themselves.

They look over the empty drink cup, the discarded socks on the floor, the plastic wrappers that have drifted to the carpet – and say with complete sincerity, “What mess?”

I have come to the conclusion that this is a little-studied flaw on the broken Y chromosome.

Women can see messes and chaos because they have to keep babies alive and away from rats, germs, and the assorted icky things that happen to cake when hidden under a bed for a month.

Men, like dogs, prefer keeping gross things around. Perhaps to cover up their scent, for the same reason dogs roll in poop?

A scary thought. Hopefully fanciful as well.

But I’ve lived with males my whole life, and I’ve seen things that make my skin crawl. I have to wonder.

Man attempts to watch TV as woman tries to get him to help fold laundry

While in the Army, I worked closely with Public Affairs and  Information Operations and in these two closely related fields, one learns how to “shape the battlefield” without firing a shot.

There are ways you can help your males with their handicap without nagging or a larger battle, and make your own life easier and much more pleasant.

After all, there are better reasons to scream than seeing the turkey bone that somehow made its way under the couch.

Giving Men Incentives to Clean

1. Have a yard sale

This is great for cleaning out your closets – and clutter is notorious for holding dirt. So eliminate the clutter. Sell your old books, cups in the kitchen, the extra chair he’s always getting around to fixing.

If he complains, smile sweetly and show him the wad of cash you wisely pocketed prior to the sale.

“Look how much I’ve made already, honey! Don’t you have stuff to sell? I think some of these guys are looking for tools.”

With most men, you should see junk moving onto the front yard fairly quickly. When he doesn’t help you clean after the sale, the trash can is at the curb. If he was ready to sell it, he doesn’t need it.

2. Cater to his obsessions

So you have a man who loves sharp knives? Take him to a chef supply store, Williams Sonoma, or browse Amazon, or read our guides and reviews at Foodal and let him admire at all of the kitchen gadgets.

Men love toys. Lead him over to the knife section or online reviews. They also love things that cut. He’ll find the best set.

When you get him home, ask him to use those new knives to chop things up. He may not peel the potatoes, but if you’re clever and patient, you’ll have a sous chef working for you, and maybe even a real chef.

There are other things you can do: if you have a handyman, tell him how HARD it is to get the wood floors in the dining room clean.

If you have him figured right, he’ll do something about the floors to make it easier for you to clean – and that will be helpful.

3. Don’t try to control everything

Let’s face it: all us women do it. We know everything there is to know about housework, so when he’s polishing the furniture in the wrong way or stacking the dishes wrong, we go and correct it. He sees us do it, shrugs, and thinks, why bother next time?

STOP!

If he’s nice enough to load the dishwasher, don’t worry about whether the forks are tines out or the dishes all face the right way. Chances are, everything will get clean. And if it doesn’t, it’s not a big deal to run it again.

Either let him do it his way, or don’t ask him to do it at all.

man cleaning while woman relaxes on couch

4. You don’t know all the answers

Even though he doesn’t do housework on a regular basis, he might have some solutions you never thought of.

5. Teach him how to do stuff

Without contradicting #3-4, show him how to do the things he doesn’t know. Most men get out of adolescence without once cleaning an oven, ironing a shirt, or scrubbing the baseboard.

Don’t expect him to know how to do it. Ask him if he’ll help you if you teach him what to do.

6. Ask

How often do you ask him to do things, instead of just expecting it? You can’t expect spontaneous help from most men.

They just don’t work that way.

Instead of being resentful, look at yourself as the household manager, an old and venerable women’s role.

Your job, as manager, isn’t to do everything yourself, but rather to see to it that things get done. This means giving orders, training, and supervising things without being overbearing.

7. Remember that men are by nature problem-solvers

So what if he uses steel wool on your new copper pan? He’s trying to solve a tough problem – stained copper – and this is how he’s going about it.

My husband picks up his clothes with his toes. So what, as long as they get picked up? Let him do it his way.

Man and Woman happily scurb the floor together

8. Remember that housework and not your husband is the problem

He’s the man you love, and your partner. The housework is the problem you must solve together. Keep it in perspective, and remember that he doesn’t necessarily look at housework as a problem. You must guide him to that realization.

9. Give him credit for what he does do

You may not see it, and he won’t make an issue of it – but fixing the broken sink when he finds it, carrying the heavy stuff out to the car, and maintaining the yard all fall in the category of housework.

It’s not fair to ask him to take on the part that you’re doing as well if he’s already doing a lot around the house.

In other words, just like he may not be able to see the mess right under his nose, you may have conditioned yourself to not see the things he does.

Stop, think about it, and list on paper the things he’s done over the last month.

Then slip into something sexy and reward him for it in the way you know he likes best. There is no better incentive than recognizing all the things he’s already doing around the house.

10. Remember what incentivizes a man: sex, food, masculinity, and gadgets

We waste money at sales because the deal is just so good; men waste time saving time because it’s such a good life deal. Men will also do things that they know will make you happy.

Man and woman cook food together

11. Do it naked, as long as he’s helping out

If you don’t have kids, vacuum the floor naked, and tell him you’ll stay that way as long as he’s polishing the tables.

Make it into a game.

When he stops, put on the ugliest robe you own, and tell him it stays there til he starts helping out. Chances are, he’ll work faster and harder, and you’ll both have a nice little bonus when you’re done.

12. Pitch in for him once in a while

If he’s working on the car, go out and bring him tools. If he’s mowing, go out and pick up the toys your daughter left laying around. Women often don’t notice the things THEY don’t do for men – we’re pretty self-centered.

13. Buy a barbeque, a really nice one

Men who won’t step near a stove will happily barbeque all evening. Get a stock of paper plates to go with it, and a nice cooler, and enjoy your nights off.

If you want more than just meat, though, you may have to guide him into grilling you veggies or shishkabobs.

14. Talk to him about this article, and laugh with him

He may agree or disagree with any one of these points – all men are different – but the point is, if you’re talking about why he doesn’t do housework, and you’re admitting that you may have some flaws here too, you’re bound to at least understand where he’s coming from, and he’ll start understanding you as well.

15. If all else fails and you can afford it, hire a maid

Then when she’s done cleaning the house, go out to dinner – he pays. This is a lot nicer than stewing for a week because he won’t do anything, and it makes both of you pick up the clutter so she’ll clean everything she’s supposed to clean

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About Lynne Jaques

Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!

40 thoughts on “How to Get Your Husband Involved in Housework”

  1. This article is great, just the right amount of humor with some useful tips. I really like that you didn’t make any blanket statements about men or women, I think we all appreciate your very fair approach to this. I really like the tips and one that has always worked well for me is not trying to control everything. I live with my boyfriend and used to want everything to be perfect all the time–I know amateur mistake–I would become annoyed with the way he filled the dishwasher, the way he put dishes away, the sloppy way he put the detergent in the washer that I made him (I’m assuming by my mannerisms) feel stupid and not want to help. Finally he was like “I am trying but don’t know what you want.” I figure that we need to find a way to make this work so I do the things that I can’t stand to see him not do the way I do, bathroom cleaning and laundry and he helps dust, vacuum and handle the dishwasher however he pleases. It’s not a perfect system but it helped take all the responsibility off of my shoulders and I appreciate that.

    • It goes without saying, we ought to be more appreciative …at least he took the effort, you are on the winning side forextraspecialstuff, i tend to fume huge bellows of smoke if things are not done to my rule and order, what a wonderful way to make people scurry off !…its a long time coming to mellow down my critical nature…but my friends are saying i’ ve changed to the best of course…well its a good sign when i get him…inner talk will work i bet, if i find am on that side of almost saying something i might regret ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Not yet in that camp but glad to have stumbled on this informative advice, i for one can be very critical and wanting things done my way, reading the article above, it begs me to cut them some slack, if he even remotely offered to do a certain chore, i should be in awe of him and be grateful….hmmm, couldn’t help but notice some ‘naughty bits’ to tempt him into helping…once i cross that bridge, you can bet am using those ‘spicy’ tips ;).

  3. While growing up as a child, my Grandfather lived in our household and he and my Father performed most of the house work/ cleaning and cooking. My Mother worked and my Father was retired from the Air Force (he was injured during his last year of service). I was always amazed when other kids would comment that their Mothers’ performed chores.

  4. Some funny and interesting points here. I am glad I read it, but as a husband in question it feels like I am behind enemy lines. Any chance of a follow up post detailing ways to get the wife to do more housework?

    • Lol! I was thinking the same thing as I read this article…my husband actually does a fair majority of the housework and has an easier time spotting messes than I do! The article, while funny, was a little bit unfair to the wonderful men in our lives. At least Lynne did mention that this didn’t apply to ALL men.

  5. You could switch all the genders around and it would apply to me. My husband is the clean one, and I will only tidy up when the filth is up to a point where it gets in my way. Any tips for getting women more involved in housework? LOL!

  6. I am so lucky that my husband has been doing most of the household chores, except washing the dishes, because of my pregnancy condition. He’s always on the run to buy my cravings, medicines and even escorted me in buying my maternity dresses. He cooks meals making sure they are safe for me and my baby. As a reward, basketball during weekend would be fine with him and if I’m feeling well, we would go to the movie together to relax.

  7. Do women not find sex, food, and gadgets good incentives? I know it would motivate me… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Fun tips, the biggest one here is to just communicate with your husband or partner. I’m lucky because mine is more into cleaning than I am. We split the duties pretty evenly. Clean together and then find some way to reward everyone.

  8. My husband seldom clean the house. And if that happens he really clean all the way up to the kitchen. But it all happens at least once a year. ha! ha! ha!
    I don’t pressure him when it comes to cleaning. But when I need his help, he’s there for me to give a hand. He’s quite messy when it comes to changing his clothes. He just throw it anywhere! But he doesn’t like messy and cluttered table. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I’m glad I’ve never had this problem. My boyfriend and I have been living together for a few years and this has never been a problem. That being said, I will be passing this article to my friends and family so they can read it. I know for a fact there are some women and men that I know that could do to help out around their house more. I think communication really is the key. If I want my boyfriend to take out the trash while I am doing another chore, I just ask him. I don’t expect him to do everything and he doesn’t expect me to either and that works for us.

  10. I have to say, I am one of the lucky ones: my husband happily does cooking and washing-up, he’s a great cook indeed. Yet one of the things I cannot get him to do is to put in the clothes to wash, I have to be really ill when he finally gets to that stage. He seems to be oblivious to where clothes come from ๐Ÿ™‚ however I can forgive him that, he’s really funny on the other hand, he never gets a right pair of socks on. I tried the being naked tip but that’s just too distracting for us…hihi.

  11. All very good ideas, I have thought and tried some of these before myself and it can help. Right now the bigger issue I run into is my boyfriend working 50 or more hours a week so hes just to tired. Since I work at home anyways it is a lot easier for me to tackle the chores. Which I don’t mind but sometimes its nice to get help, especially if he is making most of the mess to begin with.

  12. Nice article, however I must admit I don’t want my husbands help. He doesn’t clean good enough for me. If he tries to help I get upset with him. I tell him just go sit down I’ll get this. I do think it’s sweet that he wants to help. I suppose I should at least let him load the dish washer from time to time.

  13. This article is written pretty entertaining! I could not help but laugh when you dare a comparison between men and your dog rolling in its poop… So mean, so mean, but the rest of your article is more fair and appreciative of the male side of the tracks! I particularly loved reading this very true sentence where you remind us that the man is not the enemy, it’s the mess that is. He’s the partner, the man we love. And I tend to forget that — when we’re fighting, when he’s doing something wrong, when he’s just not doing something he has to. But I ought to remind myself that yeah, we’re partner and it’s us against the world, we can’t afford to sweat all the small stuff like him cutting my onions wrong! He does make a great cook though.

    I would try the naked thing, but like allaballa mentioned, I’m scared that it would put him offtrack more than not. I’ll keep this article around for inspiration, though. Yard sales are pretty much out of the question for us — he likes to buy useless stuff, not to sell his!

  14. This article is not only helpful, but hugely entertaining too! I think my husband would love the idea of ‘naked cleaning’.

    The problem in my house is exactly as you describe here – my husband will walk past the overflowing bin, pile of laundry, and even dishes and coffee mugs left lying around. I get frustrated that he doesn’t see these things, and of course I start nagging him about it. But there are other times when I’m busy, or not feeling well, and he will do his best to take care of the daily chores to my satisfaction. I often find myself checking what he’s done, and complaining that he hasn’t done it properly. Your article has made me realize that I should appreciate his efforts a lot more than I do.

    Really useful tips, thank you!

  15. There are certainly some men who will pitch in with the cooking and cleaning (and many of them seem to be ex-military!) but me and my girlfriends are always complaining about how little our men do. There’s some great advice here, particularly about seeing things from his point of view, and I will be trying some of the tactics mentioned here over the coming weeks. Thanks!

  16. Honestly I think you just need to tell them to do something. If they aren’t willing to help you don’t have a healthy relationship. I would first focus on “man” tasks as as moving, lifting and cutting things. Then move onto the more finer cleaning tasks.

  17. I absolutely LOVE this article! I already do some of things mentioned above. I know that if I help him change the oil in his car, for example, then he’ll help me do the dishes. If I offer to iron his works clothes then he’ll help me laundry. When we used to have our own place (we live with his parents now) I was always naked! I used to joke around saying that we should live in a nudist colony. I definitely need to buy him a barbecue! Less time in the kitchen for me, haha!!!

  18. I am lucky my husband loves to clean, he’s always been handy around the house. However these tips I still find helpful because learning to give him incentives is a great idea. Most other women I know have problems getting their husband or partner to do daily and weekly chores, so this article I will forward onto them. I think its great when a couple share the housework.

  19. My partner does most of the cooking & the repair in our house. So, whenever I get upset that I’m cleaning everything I just remind myself of all the work he does for us. Occasionally he will do the dishes & make the bed. I know he cares and does a lot of work that I don’t do, so I make the best of it. Creating ways to organize and decluttering our home has really helped and he loves it too. Your suggestion for yard sales is one of our favorite things to do together.

  20. I’m not going to lie to you, when I read the title I was skeptical… VERY skeptical. But now that I’ve read them I think some of them really may work. And if you knew my husband you would understand why I am so shocked. Thank you for the great ideas!

  21. My wife does all of this to me all the time! I never liked the term ‘hen-pecked’, but that would perfectly describe my relationship with my wife, and I love it that way. Cleaning has never been a problem for me, I’m a naturally clean guy, and I love doing housework.

  22. Here’s how I let my guy know that he needs to start cleaning: I stop feeding him. That’s it. He’s become so reliant on me for the meals that he can barely make a sandwich for himself. If I stop cooking for him he makes it a point to get right on those dished to ‘make room for me’ or the floor so I’m ‘comfortable in the kitchen’ Works like a charm. Would not suggest this if you’re a terrible cook. =)

    • Evil, but it does the job, got to give you that! I’m actually glad my mother didn’t do this to me while I was home for the summer break, haha!

  23. I’m the guy good with domestic duties. My wife, children and I are sharing a home with her father and brother. I have been banging my head on the wall trying to get help cleaning. Some of these suggestions will work great with her father and brother but not sure how to approach my wife or children. I get overwhelmed keeping up with the messes made by 6 people.

  24. I find that one of the best ways to get my husband to help with housework is to make him see how hard I work at home and at work. Usually, when I start doing housework, if he’s sitting around watching nothing important, he might get up and help though this has often been a problem so I greatly appreciate the ideas and motivations mentioned in this blog and accompanying comments – Thank you all ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. This is funny! This is also very true.
    As a male who has lived on his own for a # of years, in places that were inspected and needed to be kept clean (my work put me up in their accommodations) I had to learn a lot of this the hard way. Keeping face at work is a powerful incentive.
    Now I do this as a second nature, my wife’s pretty lucky in that respect.
    It took a few years to really learn housework and to love it.
    Ladies, can I stress #12???
    It will go along way!
    She never used to offer to help with fixing things and working on the car because she though she couldn’t or would get in the way.
    You know how helpful it is just to have someone grab tools or put them away? Plus then it gives us men a chance to teach you something! “Grab that 5 mm socket and ratchet driver please” my lady know what to do!

  26. This is funny. I think there is a lot more to it than all of this. I do hear your frustration. Everyone is different certainly there are plenty of women who are messy and don’t do housework.
    Majority of the behaviors stem from childhood and how that went. Any individual in a family needs to choose what they do to keep things in order. The honey to do list and dictating doesn’t work even with a child. This kind of action sets up the environment for arguments and rebellion. Husbands included.
    I love the leaning on the garbage thing after work. This is funny. I’d probably smile and say I guess we need to make more money to hire a maid or garbage guy. It’s like he is saying that he worked all day why don’t you do it. Women always say it is a man’s job to take out the garbage. Regardless it needs to be done.
    It is good to make sure everyone included understands what needs to be done to keep a house in order, but the main thing is to let them choose what they do. You take away a very important thing from them with dictating jobs. Spelling it out and let it fly. Happily taking that garbage out once and while helps, like its no big deal.
    I once said the floor needs to be cleaned, thinking I would do it soon. Next thing I know someone is sweeping and mopping very shortly after. It’s hard to keep up after other people who don’t bother. What’s the point anyway. Do what you can and hope for the best.
    You really do damage to children when you don’t let them choose in situations like this and you will regret it later in life.

  27. My husband and son never really clean up but they always leave a mess wherever they go. Once I started to only clean my personal stuff they had to clean theirs out of necessity. I think that if you want your husband/son to clean up around the house then you should let them know how it feels to be around something messy.

  28. This article is definitely an eye opener for me. I guess I’ve never realized how much he does around the house and I’ve never taken the time to appreciate my boyfriend whenever he cooks, even when he does it wrong. I think my biggest take-out is that I should appreciate him more for trying to help and I should avoid criticizing him for not cleaning right or not automatically realizing that I need help around the house. It’s an “aha” moment for me,as Oprah would call it!

  29. Awesome article!!! This put a smile on my face!

    My husband…god bless him, really does try on occasion to help out. However, I am a neat freak!! So most of the times I just do it myself. He was also raised in a home which cleaning was never expected of him, nor was the basics taught to him.

    My husband with a mop the floor before sweeping it, or run the faucet so strongly when washing dishes it creates more of a mess (which he doesn’t clean after). Now I know I am making him seem useless, but he’s not. he loves to use new things, so like mentioned in the article, I have taken him to kitchen supply stores and boughten him items that he can use when we get home. As a result, I get a sous chef and he’s so excited about his new items he cleans up after himself.

    I also bribe him into helping out with things I know he can’t resist, new toys and gadgets and a little lingerie for me ๐Ÿ˜‰

  30. This is just too funny ๐Ÿ™‚ Everything in this article is sooo true. I am one of the lucky ones, my husband does help out around the house and doesn’t really like a mess. The problem is that if he cleans, he doesn’t do it torough enough for my liking, so I am doing the cleaning! He does help whenever I ask him ๐Ÿ™‚ And he is in charge of the garden and walking the dogs, so it is divided evenly. I might try the cleaning naked tip one day :-p

  31. Ha, what a fun article. Full of good advice too! I hate cleaning, but I can’t afford a housekeeper, so yeah. This is great. Can the next one be about getting kids to do their part?

    If being married for twenty years has taught me anything, it’s that number 6 is 100% right on. There should be a paper that comes with every marriage certificate that says, “Your mate is not a mind reader.” Couples would be much happier. Don’t walk around discouraged thinking “he should know.” Just ask him.

  32. My husband cooks and cleans sometimes but I often wish he could do just a little bit more because then it would be somewhat easier for me.
    The thing is I hardly ask him to help out and I do not stress that much about it.
    However, if I do complain loudly about it then all of a sudden he does help out more I guess I just have to ask him more and try to follow some of these tips. Thanks for sharing.

  33. I can definitely say a few of these do really work! lol Having a yard sale, makes my fiance want to get rid of all the old, so he can buy other nice things, which I am totally okay with! I also send him to the store for specific things, such as a new handheld mixer, sharp knife set, thermometers, measuring cups, etc and h never fails.

  34. The title of this article stopped me in my tracks. This is something I’ve been trying to do in all our years of married life, and I’ve failed miserably. My husband will take care of the housework when he has to, if I’m ill, for instance, and he’ll do it pretty well too! But other than that, on a day to day basis, he’s not interested in helping out in the least bit. I hope some of these tips can help me get him to do more to help me around the house.

  35. For me, it’s a give and take process. We need to communicate with them properly when we need help. Personally, I asked my husband to help clean the toilet. Since he is not really comfortable with it, I bought some fun and cool tools that can help him make the work easier. And it worked for him.

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